St. Stephen Inn gets a face lift and a new purpose

Sari Green/Courier The St. Stephen Inn on King St. in St. Stephen is getting a facelift. The lower building, seen here, is being turned into two-bedroom, one-bedroom, and bachelor apartments. The upper building will remain an inn, at least for the time being.

ST. STEPHEN – It would be hard not to notice the activity happening at the St. Stephen Inn. Greg Hooper, owner of Uncle Mayn’s in St. George, and Milltown Market in St. Stephen amongst other ventures, has purchased the building, and is turning one of the buildings into apartments, while keeping the other building as a hotel. St. Stephen Mayor Allan MacEachern said he is looking forward to having new housing in the downtown area, and he is glad that Hooper has stepped up to the plate to turn “something that needed lots of love and repair” into much-needed housing for the area.

“It’s going to make a huge improvement to our downtown,” said MacEachern. “Of course, the main thing is housing, so it’s going to be filling that need with many apartments. It’s very positive. It’s always been an eyesore. It’s labeled, ‘St. Stephen Inn’, and people see St. Stephen Inn, and they think of St. Stephen. You know what it looks like. It needs some love.”

MacEachern said the Town of St. Stephen is stepping up to help wherever possible, particularly when it comes to getting through all of the “hoops and little roadblocks” that go along with most construction projects. He said there is a team that is ready and willing to help, with people who care about the community.

With the need for housing being greater than ever, MacEachern said having these new apartments is going to help to revitalize the downtown core. He said having people living in the building will be “just like putting instant customers for all of our businesses right in the downtown core”. He expects this project will lead to other new businesses opening up downtown, including “another little grocery store”.

“It’s awesome,” said MacEachern. “It’s exciting. I’m very excited. Greg is awesome to deal with. He’s a local guy, and talking to a local developer is so fun. It’s very positive for our community.”

Many people may not have realized that having the inn here counted against the town when it came to developers for new hotels in the area. MacEachern said an assessment was done, and new developers would count the rooms at the inn as being available, meaning that new short-term accommodations may not be needed or viable for the area.

“They would count those 50 rooms against us,” said MacEachern. “No one would stay there, but they would count against us. Now that that’s gone, that’s a huge advantage for our community. That will help develop the hotel and possibly another hotel.”

Hooper said there will be 14 new apartments in the lower building of the St. Stephen Inn. There will be two, two-bedroom apartments, 10 one-bedroom apartments, and two bachelor apartments. He hopes to keep the rent as low as possible, even though his costs are approximately much higher than expected.

“I’d like to keep as low rent as I possibly can, but I tell you, with what’s happening right now with the cost of building materials and everything going up, we probably are running about 40 per cent higher than what we anticipated. Then, you‘ve to got to wait so long for your building materials and stuff. Nobody has anything in stock right now.”

Hooper said the upper building will continue to be operated as an inn, and nightly, weekly, and monthly accommodations will be offered. The upper building is not meant to be long-term housing, but when people need a place to stay for shorter periods, the rooms will be available for them to rent.

“We’re going to really fix it up. Our plan as of right now is to continue running it as an inn,” said Hooper.

Hooper expects to have the work completed on the lower building by January, and hopes to have tenants ready to move in by January 1, as long as everything goes as planned. He said there is a lot of red tape to deal with when it comes to a project such as this, but he and his crew are “getting through it”. He said he is thrilled and thankful to have so much help from MacEachern and the Town of St. Stephen to make this project possible.

“I’m very impressed with Mayor Allan MacEachern,” said Hooper. “He’s just phenomenal. He’s done a great job for St. Stephen. He welcomed us with open arms. He does a great job.”

MacEachern is thrilled to have Hooper creating new opportunities in St. Stephen in addition to renovating the St. Stephen Inn. He spoke about the Milltown Irving, and said when it was about to close, he made a call to Hooper, asking him if he was interested in taking over the business and turning it into a market similar to Hooper’s store in St. George.

“I tried to get people in the area interested, and I always use Greg’s store in St. George as an example of what could be there, and Greg did it,” said MacEachern. “Look at the store now. There was always one person working there, and you had a choice of a loaf of bread or a can of soup. I’m exaggerating, but there wasn’t a lot available there. They turned it into over six people at least. You go in there now, there’s two cashiers, plus out back, and stock. It’s amazing.”

MacEachern said Hooper really knows the market business, and he knows what people need and what they can afford to spend. He said Hooper sells products in an affordable price range, and his store is a market rather than just being a convenience store.

Hooper is also renovating the former People’s Pub on Milltown Blvd. in St. Stephen, and MacEachern said he is really looking forward to sampling the menu.

“If those pictures are what they’re serving for food, that melted sandwich, I just drool when I see that picture,” laughed MacEachern. “They’d better have that. I’m looking forward to that as well. He’s already talking about something else. He’s just that guy. I’m glad he’s doing it.”

sarigreen@stcroixcourier.ca